Cameron Ward is the biggest source of optimism for Washington State football in 2022.

The former Incarnate Word quarterback was one of the most sought-after quarterbacks to enter the transfer portal this offseason, and Washington State not only won his signature, but it also brought his former head coach with him to Pullman to coordinate the Cougar offense.

And CBS Sports’ Emory Hunt thinks Ward makes the Cougars a Pac-12 title threat because he’s a Heisman dark horse candidate.

“In order to have a great football team, you really have to have great quarterback play,” Hunt said on CBS Sports HQ recently. “Washington State is bringing in Cam Ward, who I covered a lot of down at the FCS level at Incarnate Word. This dude remains me a lot of what we used to see from Steve McNair when he was at Alcorn State. Every week he’s making some phenomenal plays in the passing game.

“The Southland Conference was like the Big 12 of the FCS. Now, he’s coming to the Pac-12. … Cam Ward is a dark horse Heisman candidate. His arrival helps make this team even better. Their defense will be a direct beneficiary of a very good offense. (Washington State) could be a sleeper team coming out of the Pac-12.”

Ward was prolific at Washington State. He averaged 7 yards a play and produced points on a per-play basis that was on par with what Dorian Thompson-Robinson did for UCLA last season.

With Morris calling the shots at UIW, Ward threw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns as a sophomore to help the team to a 10-3 record and a spot in the FCS Playoffs. He was the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, a Second Team FCS All-American, and a Walter Payton Award finalist (given to the offensive player of the year at the FCS level). As a freshman, the Texas native won the Jerry Rice Award—most outstanding freshman FCS player—after setting UIW single-season records with 2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns in just six games.

Heading into the 2022 season, Ward is on the preseason Maxwell Award watch list. The Cougars get rolling on Sept. 3 against Idaho at home. Ward will have a chance to almost immediately introduce himself to a national audience as well; WSU travels to Madison on Sept 10 to face Wisconsin on FOX.